I don’t expect much from O: The Oprah Magazine these days except the occasional excellent interview, the odd book recommendation and a few awesome quotes.  Every other issue is “get confident”, “live bold” or “feel happy” and those messages always feel like some life coach is stuck in 2002 editing the magazine.  So, I don’t much miss it when the episodes stack up, unread.  But I did miss Whole Living magazine the other day and wondered if I had let my subscription lapse.  Alas, no.  And the story just gets more sad from there.

I received a copy of More magazine yesterday along with a note that said that Whole Living magazine is no longer being published but the More magazine editor said she’d “persuaded” her publisher to finish out my subscription with More.  Wow, really!  Um, no. Even as I type this, my nose wrinkles with distaste.  On many levels but the main piece of my annoyance is the cheap, sales-y tone of the letter.  Hint #1 that while More’s slogan is “…for women of style & substance”, there would be none of either in this sorry replacement for Whole Living.  Bait & SwitchWhole Living featured not only great articles on how to cook & bake with tofu but pieces on women’s health, simple beauty ideas and stories about women who were changing the world.  Needless to say I really liked it.  I always tore out at least one recipe and it was the one magazine that I read it cover to cover.

I get businesses need to make tough calls about what to keep and what to cut loose.  But would it have been so difficult for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, publisher of Whole Living, to send a note to subscribers telling them about the decision to stop publishing the magazine? As anyone who has ever waited for hours on the tarmac for their flight to take off knows, a heads-up can make a huge difference in one’s perception of the problem. They also could have given subscribers an option to choose one of their other magazines to complete or subscription instead of selling our name and address to Meredith Corporation. It’s not complicated to do the right thing by people who trust and buy your product.  A letter informing people who like the magazine that it will cease to be is the right thing to do.  Sure, it’ll take time but it’s the right thing.  Maybe this is why we consumers have become so fickle.  We are so often treated as disposable and unimportant.

I like to think that Martha Stewart herself, fastidious and conscientious as she is, would have done this right thing at one point.  But she’s grown too big to bother about you and I anymore.  She believes that she can take a risk like alienating customers and not have it affect her very much.  And maybe it won’t.  But I know this: taking the cheap, lazy way out may save you money, time, energy in the moment but over the course of a lifetime, it’s not how you build a loyal customer base.  Martha Stewart can afford to lose me but new business owners, take note. You can’t.

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